COVID-19 impact on employees and employers

Key Employment Options for the Latest NSW COVID-19 Restriction Period

Given the ongoing nature of this latest COVID 19 outbreak, the government has imposed further restrictions from 18 July 2021 which will impact businesses in the Greater Sydney area, including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour. 

For a detailed rundown of how the recent COVID-19 restrictions impact employees and employers, including whether your employees are allowed to come to work and which businesses are allowed to remain open, please click here.

What are your options as an employer during this lockdown period?

There may be workplace options available such as:

  • Allowing employees to continue to work from home
  • Standing down employees unable to work with no pay
  • Changing rosters and hours of work
  • Changing employees’ duties

Allowing employees to continue to work from home

This is the ideal option if your business can successfully continue with remote working. Employers must allow an employee to work from home if the employee is reasonably able to do so. Businesses that do not allow employees that can reasonably work from home to do so face a fine of up to $10,000.

Stand downs

Under the Fair Work Act 2009, employers have the option of standing down employees without pay during a sudden workplace closure that is outside the employer’s control.  This is allowed when:

  1. the employee is not able to be usefully employed;
  2. there is a stoppage of work; and
  3. the stoppage must have been caused by reasons that the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible for.

If employees are unable to attend work due to an enforceable government direction (eg closure of construction or retail), the employer doesn’t have to pay the employee. Please note however, that an employer and employee can agree on the employee taking paid leave during the stand down period (e.g. annual leave/long service leave).

Changing rosters and hours of work or changing employees’ duties

These options can only be done by agreement between employer/employee and/or with appropriate notice according to the relevant award/agreement.

What can employees do?

Employees may be eligible for government assistance during a stand down or when they are unable to attend work due to an enforceable government direction.

Employees who are stood down may be able to access paid and unpaid leave entitlements.  However, it is important to note that this can affect employer and/or employee eligibility for government support and assistance.

Leave and support options

Unpaid Pandemic Leave

Employees required to self-isolate by government or medical authorities’ may be able to access up to 2 weeks of unpaid Pandemic leave. (Evidence may be required).

Annual Leave at half pay

Award covered employees can take annual leave at half pay for twice the length of time if their employer agrees.

Long Service Leave

An employer and a worker can agree to taking long service leave in smaller blocks, such as one or two days a week.

COVID-19 Disaster payment

The Federal Government COVID-19 Disaster Payment is a payment which employees can access to help when lockdown lasts for more than 7 days. Employees cannot get this payment for the first 7 days of lockdown. For more details about this payment, see here.

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment

This is a lump sum payment to help during each 14 day period if an employee needs to self-isolate, quarantine or care for someone and cannot earn an income. There are eligibility criteria for the $1500 lump sum payment. For full details that apply to your state, click here.

Mental Health support

If you or your staff are experiencing any issues in coping with the impact of these lockdowns, there are a number of highly reputable support lines available, including:

Beyond Blue1800 51 23 48
Lifeline Australia13 11 14

More information?

Navigating the employment rules and support that relate to these latest restrictions is highly complex. Our team at Allan Hall HR are working hard to understand this fast-changing landscape and can help you to optimise the best solution for your industry and business. Please contact us directly at [email protected] or call 1300 675 393 if you wish to discuss your unique situation.